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Changes have come to tourism

  • Written by Lito Cinco
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 210

IT looks like the winds of changes are coming  into the tourism world. 

Too bad though that the same winds have been refused entry into the local world of sports with recent developments, but then, this time, it will be me as a tourism  travel writer  speaking and not  as the usual sportswriter.
Having been acknowledged as one who dabbles in travel writing, now I get regular invitations from the Department of Tourism (DOT) to some of its events.
One of them came my way last Tuesday as together with other  colleagues, I went to Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay for the well-attended 3rd CALABARZON Tourism  Summit organized by Regional Director Rebecca Labit of  Region IV-A, an old friend in tourism though younger than me.
The event’s theme was Moving Towards Diversity, Innovation, and Sustainability, today’s buzz  worlds  even in the corporate world, and indeed , with the rapid changes happening worldwide, the tourism world has to respond and respond well and fast to these changes that have resulted to emerging markets,  travelers with different lifestyles and always in search of   something new and varied demands.
Gone are the  days that  tourists  will be satisfied with going to a beach resort and just swim and enjoy  the sun.
The elements of fun and inter-action and new experiences have become important components in today’s  travelers and the Philippines has been moving towards these directions. 
I remember  before when the target for so long was to reach 5 million visitors, and this was the time  when Sabah alone in Malaysia  had been getting  around 7 million tourists already and Thailand was hitting around 25 million, that was  how far behind we were.
Now we  have  breached the 5 million mark and  if  the new DOT policy guidelines and directions for the department are to be followed to the hilt, then five years from  now  we should be at the 12 million visitors  milestone already.
And that is why I was  happy upon hearing  the changes that the DOT people at the  helm announced at the summit  with Usec. Alma  Rita Jimenez, a former  private sector  practitioner and now the Usec. for Tourism  regulation, coordination, and resource generation,  explaining the shifts adopted by the DOT.   Being a believer in using metrics to set and monitor objectives, she said that figures should be used to show clearly the  status of different  programs like in terms of tourism arrivals complete with  the necessary details.
The challenge for tourism stakeholders , according to  her, is to go beyond the traditional and the need to be creative and innovative to attract local and international travelers.
I noted that like me, she is doing away with motherhood statements in setting objectives  and one  of the areas  that I  welcome the change is the adoption of a progressive accreditation process for tourism establishments like hotels, lodging places, and restaurants.
Before, the criteria  to be met were cast in stone regardless of where the establishments s were located , an example  would be the requirement for  a parking area, but then for small establishments  in the provinces that have long been there  way before these guidelines were  issued, they simply do not have the space to set up a parking  area, after all  a lot of  their guests come in tricycles.
Now, only the basic things need to be met by  establishments  at the first level, then as   they improve on their facilities.
Most establishments now cater more to the millennials who in fairness is a lucrative market with their never-ending desire to travel, discover and experience new destinations and being able to post them on line  for  other people to see and envy, but Jimenez pointed out  that the other markets like the seniors, retired who have both the time and the money to travel, should not be taken out of the equation.
Also, DOT will try to create a better  climate for tourism investments and  increase the number of stakeholders, this is  particularly needed in the  number of rooms  to be needed as tourism arrivals increase  yearly.
Having some experience in business planning, I asked Jimenez  how  DOT can guarantee that all these  new plans and programs will come into fruition, for I have long realized that the easy part  is always the planning, the hard part is in the implementation.
Talking of looking ahead, I also  had a chance to meet Cesar Mamon, president and CEO of Enchanted Kingdom, the same guy  I know who was actively involved before in the horse racing industry.
He shared  the theme park’s expansion plans of doubling up  its developed area, including building family and business hotels  and  convention sites.
This year, the park will introduce its newest additional attraction, a 4D ride all over the Philippines.
This  is a chance to see both the popular and new  tourism destinations using footages from the 30  hours of  aerial photography and video that Enchanted Kingdom invested on as its way of contributing  to the  tourism promotion.
I hope the plan to invite the media before the formal opening to the public of Agila, that’s the name of this  new attraction of the park, pushes through as promised by Mamon and Director Labit.
That ‘s it for the tourism side, Now, just  my five cents’ worth of talk  about the latest development  regarding the POC election  following the  disqualification anew of Ricky Vargas by the POC’s COMELEC and ensuring that Peping will have no opponents in the forthcoming election.
By the way, among the victims in this situation was POC Chairman Tom Carrasco who was also found  ineligible  to run again,         Sen. Sonny Angara has already called for a Senate inquiry on the case.
From what I  read, it covers the supposedly unliquidated funds  given by the PSC to POC amounting to P129M and the way the POC  set up its qualifying  guidelines for the  POC chairman and president  positions.
Now, I am sure  that Peping and his group will  protest against this government intervention into POC matters and will cite  the POC’s independence from  the government.
Well,  maybe except for  accepting funds from the PSC that is,  and  I  will agree with him that the  IOC will look at this as  indeed an unwanted intervention by the government.
The risk  for us   is that the Philippines gets suspended by the IOC and  this means we cannot join the Asian Games and the Olympic Games which both fall under the IOC.
This is what I mean that in the end, it will always be the athletes who will get caught in the crossfire when politics rear its ugly head in sports.
Now  what  needs to be done and what will happen,  honestly, I do not know.